For those familiar with the sport, this question may seem ridiculous. Picking the “best” paintball gun out of the hundreds available is daunting, to say the least, and determining which is superior to the rest seems like it is completely up to the user. However, it’s not hard to see differences in the many markers out there, and, with the help from this buyers guide, you can hopefully find the best paintball gun for you.
Below is a table that includes a selection of paintball guns that span all the price ranges and play styles and many of the common factors that are used to judge a paintball marker, as well as some that can only come with experience in the sport.
How to Choose the Best Paintball Gun For You
First, what’s your budget? Paintball is expensive, and, understandably, most people don’t want to spend all their cash on a gun only to be left with nothing left for paint or gear. So carefully set a limit on how much you’re willing to spend, and look for a gun that fits under it. Also, never rule out buying a used or older model, as gun prices decrease significantly as you move back in model years.
Next, what kind of paintball do you play? Are you a “rec-baller” who goes out into their backyard to play with friends, maybe going to a field every once in a while? Or are you an aspiring tournament player who demands the absolute best from their gun, and plays and practices every week? This decision is as important as the price, because you don’t want to be stuck on a speedball field with a long, mil-sim marker, and you don’t want your $1400 trophy gun out in the mud.
Look and Feel
Which gun fits you? There are two parts to this: the look and the feel. It may sound vain to pick a gun based on looks, and indeed, many players could not care less, but the marker has to make you happy. You have to smile when you look at it, or else it’ll end up in the closet collecting dust. Then, it has to feel right in your hands. Different people have different tastes in guns, whether it’s the length, width, trigger size, etc. This means it’s important to hold the gun physically you plan on purchasing beforehand, so you know if it’s a good fit for you.
Take all these points into consideration, with one final bit of advice; choose the gun that you like, and don’t simply buy a gun because you saw another player using it. On that second point, play style, there is room for an explanation to help you further define what paintball gun you need, not just want.
The Different Types of Paintball Markers
Pump paintball guns are the original type of paintball marker and operate in a similar way to a shotgun. When paintball was first invented, pump guns were the best paintball guns available, and quite often, the only type you could get your hands on. But as technology increased and people have become more serious about their paintball game, electronic guns have overcrowded them. With that being said, it doesn’t mean that some people are no longer interested in pump paintball guns.
For anyone new to this type of gun, you should understand that they work like an old single-action revolver by manually cocking the gun for each round. They often use CO2 cartridges to operate them. You can’t use the same tactics and strategies with a pump paintball gun as you can with a speedball, for example, because a pump marker won’t fire quickly. As a result, this means a slower-paced paintball game, which can then alter the pace of the game.
This type of paintball gun is the most popular kind of paintball gun and typically used in commercial paintball venues. They’re easy to use and maintain and can still operate well in wind and rain. Mechanically-operated, these are great for a long firing range.
Mechanically-operated paintball guns are sometimes called a “point and shoot camera” because they’re suitable for most people to play a game with, even beginners. Many of these types of guns have a semi-automatic setting so you can fire the gun without having to pull the trigger each time. These type of guns are the most affordable, tough and diverse options for paintball players and they’re definitely a great choice if you’re looking for the best paintball guns.
This type of paintball gun offers one of the fastest firing rates compared to other paintball games. However, one important factor to consider is that they’re more difficult to operate, and as such, aren’t suitable for beginners. Not only are these more complex to operate, but require a large amount of maintenance to ensure the paintball gun is at its best standard.
Electropneumatic markers are designed for quicker operation so that the communication from the trigger to the electronic switch is much smoother and more responsive. Many people describe the action of pulling the trigger on one of these paintball guns as clicking a computer mouse, because they don’t require much force or strength, and you can rapidly repeat the action.
Many electropneumatic markers also allow you to programme your standard rate of fire. But, to make these guns fair to other paintball players, there is typically a limit to how many rates of fire you can produce. Finally, if you consider yourself a competitive person, electropneumatic guns are a great option for you, and although they’re one of the most expensive types of paintball guns, their prices have decreased in the past few years.
The Different Shapes and Styles of the Best Paintball Guns
These are pretty self-explanatory. Woodsball is paintball played in the woods, or more specifically, anywhere but an organized or speedball field. There are boundaries, obviously, but the fields tend to be large, several acres on average, and any cover is either natural (trees, rocks, and such) or is made of plywood, sticks, or dirt. This type of play is asymmetrical and requires teamwork to get around the field.
Good woodsball guns are big, simple, and mechanical. They have good efficiency and accuracy for long play times and long shots and can stand up to any conditions. Tippmann has been the go-to woodsball gun manufacturer since 1986, but any solidly built gun will do the job.
These two categories are often used interchangeably, as scenario games often require a degree of military-esque flavor to make them interesting. The name comes from the team-based objectives, or scenarios, that are often part of the game mechanics (capture control points, secure a hostage, “destroy” an enemy HQ, etc.). Famous examples are the Oklahoma D-Day game and CPX Sports’ Living Legends. Scenario games can last days, even up to a week, with set play times, and rest periods before and after. These often include thousands of players and can be both exhilarating and frightening to the inexperienced.
At scenario games, you’ll see a wide range of guns, but die-hard mil-sim players will choose guns that resemble real military weapons but function as reliably as woodsball markers. Tippmann’s A-5 and X7, Dye’s DAM, most Tiberius Arms guns, and Empire’s Battle Tested (BT) line are good choices for this game style.
Speedball lives up to its name as games are fast-paced, rarely extending over three minutes. That’s not to say nothing happens in them, of course. During speedball games, players move quickly up a symmetrical field, trying to get angles on their opponents behind inflatable bunkers. Thousands of paintballs are shot during a single round, and it’s common to see over ten points played in under ten minutes.
Speedball guns must be as fast as possible. This is where most of your top-of-the-line guns are found. Planet Eclipse, Empire, DLX, Machine, Dye, MacDev, and Bob Long all make guns specifically designed for speedball, but the choice of which one is best should be left up to you; serious speedball players use guns they love, not guns they like.
What’s the difference between Mechanical and Electro-Pneumatic?
A mechanical firing-style marker uses no electronics, and each shot is controlled directly from the trigger. Each time you pull it, there will be one, and only one shot. This group includes pump guns, as the cocking mechanism is the player pulling the pump handle back and forth. Mechanical markers are usually very simple, cheap, and easy to maintain, and they make good beginner guns.
Electro-pneumatic guns, on the other hand, rely on electricity flowing through a solenoid to fire. They almost always include some basic programming, usually fire mode (semi-auto, burst, ramping, etc.) and balls-per-second, and will need some battery, either a built-in rechargeable or a standard 9-volt.
These guns are inherently complex (notice their higher prices) and need more care and maintenance than their mechanical cousins. However, they provide more options, and are much, much faster and smaller than standard mechanical markers.
What about CO2 and HPA?
Let’s make something clear right from the start here; any gun can use HPA (compressed air), but only mechanical guns can (or more accurately, should) use CO2. Here’s why:
Carbon dioxide and compressed air are, obviously, different gases, and, therefore, behave differently under various conditions. At low temperatures, CO2’s consistency drops considerably, with accuracy and efficiency differing per shot. However, at normal temperatures, CO2 stabilizes.
Another problem is that CO2 is stored as a liquid, which can leak into the internals of the marker, collecting dirt and paint, and causing later malfunctions and lower accuracy.
This is one reason why mechanical guns can use it. Their large, simple, and open bodies allow for a higher tolerance of grime on the inside, and they are easy to clean out before it becomes a problem. Electro-pneumatic guns, on the other hand, are meant to have small profiles and be thin and precise on the inside. They need a propellant that works consistently at all temperatures is clean and can support a high rate-of-fire.
Another point to consider is the price and how common each source is. CO2 is cheap, all around. The tanks, usually 12oz., 20oz., or 9-gram for some pump guns, are all cheaper than HPA tanks, and the cost to fill one is between $5-$10. Also, every field, and even some sporting goods stores will have the ability to fill your CO2 tanks, allowing you to keep playing all day.
HPA, on the other hand, is more expensive. Due to the expense of compressors (~$10,000), some fields do not support compressed air. The tanks that hold it are also much more expensive and can cost as much as $150. However, if you plan on using any high or mid-range electric gun, HPA is far more cost-effective, as the price of modifying your electric marker to work on CO2 is about the same as just buying an HPA air system.
Just remember; mechanical guns can handle any propellant, while electro-pneumatic are mainly HPA.
The Best Paintball Guns on The Market Right Now
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Let’s take a moment to acknowledge three guns from the chart above that excel at their given price point. These markers will give you, quite literally, the best bang for your buck, and are truly special paintball guns.
Gun: Tippmann 98 Custom
You really can’t get more famous than the good ol’ 98. This gun, originally introduced in 1998, has been the go-to rental and beginner’s gun for over ten years. Visit any local field, and it’s guaranteed there will be at least one 98 still kicking. While it doesn’t have the highest accuracy or efficiency, this workhorse will keep going through mud, snow, and paint alike, and will always put a smile on your face. With Tippmann’s commitment to customization, the 98 Custom can be modified with everything from electronic triggers to collapsable stocks and barrel kits.
It’s one of the best paintball guns for its shooting aim. Once you get comfortable with this design, particularly if you’re a beginner, you’ll be amazed at how accurately the trigger shoots, and it’s also the perfect size to properly aim. The best paintball gun should fire numerous shots per second, and we’re excited that the Tippmann 98 Custom unit does exactly that. With up to eight shots per second, this gun’s speed will accommodate most gamers. An interesting fact about this unit is that it uses little air compared to many of its competitors, which means it lasts longer before requiring a new air refill.
The Tippman 98 Custom is made of a high-quality metal that keeps the unit durable and long-lasting. Even after playing paintball for hours, it’s still light and soft enough to carry without causing any discomfort. Designed with smooth edges throughout, this gun won’t blister or irritate your hands. The gun also features a hinged elbow so that you can disassemble the gun in a few seconds. Should you wish to adjust the internal mechanics, these are easy to access and view. Just make sure that you properly connect all of the parts before reconnecting the gun.
Gun: Empire Axe
With a price tag that sits neatly in between high-end guns and beginners’ choices, the Empire Axe will fit most budgets. On top of that, it’s a spectacular gun, suited to any level of speedball, or even woodsball if you so choose. With break-beam “eyes” in the chamber and a hybrid spool/poppet bolt providing smooth cycling and high efficiency, the Axe will leave you satisfied, and yet it delivers even more! As well as easy access to all internal parts, there are dozens of aftermarket manufacturers that make different body kits, bolts, triggers, and feed necks for the Axe, so you can feel free to soup yours up way past stock!
The Empire Axe is a reliable and robust paintball gun that won’t let you down during your games. Designed from aluminum, it’s engineered for hours of play, while remaining durable enough to withstand a few falls. As it’s made from a high-grade material, this paintball gun only weights 3 and a half pounds, so it’s lightweight enough to carry around. Sometimes, even the best paintball guns can weigh you down, which means you can’t travel as fast.
The sequence of the shots this gun produces are smooth without any delays. This gun also offers multiple modes of firing to give you as many options as possible, although you won’t always need to use these. But, knowing you can switch up your game at any point is enough to make paintballing more fun. This gun’s trigger is incredible and won’t ever let you down. When using the ramping mode, it’s easier to perform rapid fire. But when you’re in the semi-shooting mode, you can place your two fingers below the trigger guard so you’re always prepared for an enemy. Finally, with a choice of four positions to adjust the trigger, there are plenty of ways to activate shots.
Gun: DLX Luxe OLED
First off, just to be clear, choosing the best high-end gun is nearly impossible. Players will always defend their own choice, no matter the manufacturer. That being said, the Luxe is an amazing marker. Even beginners can use this gun as the market requires very little training. Tool-less core removal, a highly programmable board (that speaks!), hundreds of color options, excellent customer service, buttery-smooth and whisper quiet spoolie action, and extreme reliability are just some of the services this gun brings to you. And this gun really is a service; in the right hands, it dominates any scenario.
One of the best experiences of firing a gun in paintball is how the gun feels in your hands. Thankfully, the DLX bolts has a minimum weight so that there’s less moving on the inside to create an as little impact on you as possible. With its accurate aim, this is one of the best paintball guns to offer a super smooth target so you can hit your opponents every time. With this gun, you’re in control, and you call the shots.
Gun: Planet Eclipse Etha 2
For the more serious paintball players, the Planet Eclipse Etha 2 is a unit you can enjoy for the entire day. This gun offers excellent grip spacing so that you can hold the marker more efficiently. You can also fire the gun quickly as the trigger is incredibly responsive when pulled. With an average rate of 5 to 6 shots each second, the Planet Eclipse Etha 2 is a sure way to help you and your team win. But, most importantly, it’s one of the best paintball guns for comfort. Designed with the user in mind, this gun has a free and natural feel with every shot you make.
The Etha 2 is an ideal weight that is both light and comfortable, as it’s engineered with numerous materials. Thanks to being covered in an aluminum body, the gun is great for long or outdoor games and it won’t ever ache your arm. It’s also possible to change the pressure and power behind each shot via the SL3 regulator, which can handle many tank pressures.
If you’re looking for a reliable paintball gun, then don’t look away from the Etha 2 unit as it’s constructed with expert engineering and creativity in mind. Its high-quality regulator ensures that the gun has the utmost reliability while remaining attractive to look at. The gun’s grip frame is able to withstand all kinds of strong impacts, and it’s also fitted with internal pressure sensors to improve the usability for all players. Finally, one factor to consider with this unit is its loud noise. Although the gun isn’t so loud that it’ll disrupt your game, it is one of the loudest units on the market within this price range.
Gun: T4E Unmarex Paintball Pistol
If you don’t want to spend much money on a paintball gun, but still want to receive a true experience of what it’s like to play the activity, then the T4E Unmarex is an ideal choice for you. It’s one of the top paintball guns within this low price range, and you receive exactly what you pay for. The most credible factor to this unit is its accuracy. But, users are also a huge fan of how lightweight, small, and compact its design is. Sometimes paintball guns can be so robust and heavy that it takes the fun out of the activity.
Playing paintball isn’t just for kids and your pistol shouldn’t shoot like it’s made for youngsters either. The T4E’s recoil is realistic and provides similar accuracy to a real pistol, although there’s not as much noise (which is definitely a positive thing!). This gun can hold up to 43 paintballs at one time, with a range of dust balls and rubber balls; not all guns on the market can offer such great versatility. This gun is definitely designed to be the star of the show, and it’ll increase your enjoyment of playing paintball. The T4E Unmarex also offers incredible accuracy, and the trigger resembles a double-action trigger. Therefore, you should expect the sensation of a pull.
Tips to Improve Your Gameplay
Once you’ve chosen the best paintball gun for your needs, you’ll likely want to improve your performance in the game so you can be the best of the best. This adrenaline-inspired game is great for people of all ages and the key to achieving victory is knowing how to be the best individual to play. Below are our top tips.
Create a Plan
You and your team should devise a plan before jumping straight into the deep end. When everyone works together, you’ll receive better results and have a greater chance of winning. Create a thought-out plan that utilizes everyone’s skills so that no-one feels anxious or uncomfortable about what’s expected of them.
Remain Positive and Have Fun
If you’ve ever been forced to engage in an activity that doesn’t interest you, your motivation will have dropped while performing that task. But the most important factor in winning paintball is genuinely enjoying the game and having fun. Maintaining a positive spirit will not only boost your own self-esteem and strengths but your teams too. If you walk around like you have no care in the world, your energy levels will brush off onto everyone else, too.
Always Use Cover
Standing out in the open increases your chances of getting shot and makes you more of a target to your opponents. Instead, always be on the lookout for barricades and trees to find cover. Don’t expose yourself in an open space where someone can see you. Even if you’re confident that the opposite team hasn’t spotted you, always remain in cover and then fire to avoid losing.
Fool People into Thinking You Still Have Pellets
If you run out of pellets in the game, don’t let your opponents know that via physical or verbal communications as this makes you more vulnerable. When you run out of pellets, you won’t be able to shoot anyone which can make you more susceptible to losing. But, you can always draw fire for your team players to score more points. You might even be able to get your opponents to surrender if you trick them into thinking that you still have pellets left.
Confuse Your Opponents
A popular trick for paintball is to fool your opponents into thinking that you’re out of the game by casually walking up to them when you’re ready to fire. Most people will think that you’re walking away from the game because it’s the end for you, and then casually ignore you. But once you’re up close to them, you can either shoot them or pick up their flag and take it to your base. So long as you haven’t declared that you’re out of the game or hold your gun up in the game, this is technically allowed and no-one can grumble at you for it.
Always Check Yourself When You’ve Been Shot
Sometimes a pellet can hit you and not break or mark you. On some occasions, it can bounce right off of you. If this happens, you don’t have to walk off the game because you’re not out. However, bear in mind that once you’ve declared you’re out of the game, there’s no turning back.
Choosing One From Our Selection of the Best Paintball Guns
So there you go! Hopefully, this guide helps you choose a gun to conquer the field and bring you joy every time you pick it up. Remember, there are hundreds of guns out there, and this guide only covers a fraction of them. If we had to limit this article to just one of the best paintball guns, we’d choose the Empire Axe unit for numerous reasons. Although it isn’t designed to be your first paintball gun, it’s easy to use and you’ll quickly get the hang of operating the trigger.
Its foregrip is comfortable and spacious, thanks to the hard plastic coating. By offering numerous style of firing modes, you become in control of the gun and can cater the gun to suit your needs and style of play. We’re also highly impressed by its push-button bolt removal. You can easily maintain and clean this paintball gun so that it lasts for years. Just press the release button on the side and you’ll have access to the ball bearing. There’s also virtually no way that you can mess up putting the gun back together as it’s so simple and convenient to do so.
With many other paintball guns to choose from, we’re satisfied that the Empire Axe is one of the best paintball guns for a variety of players and people with different budgets. So, get out there and talk to the store owners and players who use these markers every day, and do your research before every purchase! A good gun will last you a lifetime, so make it count!
What are your thoughts on our choices of the best paintball guns? Have you owned any of the above products, or do you have some additional recommendations? Share your thoughts and feedback in the comments.